Chapter 5 : You Were Forewarned
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You Were Forewarned
Alex pulled her robes tighter around herself as she, Katie, and Jane made their way down the high street of Hogsmeade. The night was cold and the snow drifted from its banks and danced across the dimly lit street. The door to the Three Broomsticks opened and warm light and noise reached out to meet them. Katie held the door open as Alex and Jane made their way inside. The Christmas decorations were still strung about the room, a tree blinking merrily in the corner, as Jane and Katie went to go get seats, and Alex went to the bar to order drinks. She signaled the bar keep, “Three butterbeers please and . . . and a firewhiskey.”
“Hard day?” a mocking voice to her left asked.
Alex turned toward the voice and who she saw made her jaw drop. Hunter Green was sitting at the bar beside her! She turned to face forward and pay, “So, my grandmother has you stalking me all the way here on the off chance I may come get a drink?”
“Don’t flatter yourself, Alexandra,” he smirked, “you’re not that good-looking.”
Alex stared in silence for a moment then raised a delicate brow, “In that case, why are you so conveniently here?”
“Because my shop is in the village, what’s your excuse?”
“I work up at the school-”
“What, they needed a new caretaker?”
Alex turned to face him, “Wow, I have no idea how I missed that clever wit the first time we met . . . but no, I am the Professor of Transfiguration.”
“You never heard my wit because you stomped out of the restaurant like a three-year-old about thirty seconds after I walked in.”
“You’re sweet, but if you don’t mind me asking . . . my Grandmother doesn’t usually associate with shopkeepers, so how . . .”
“I’m not a shop keeper.”
“Do you own a shop?”
“Do you run that shop?”
“Do people come to your shop and buy things you sell?” He gave her a dark look. “Then, you’re a shop keeper.”
“Your grandmother and my grandmother are friends. I was looped into the devious plot when I accidently interrupted their weekly tea. You look different,” he said suddenly.
“Very astute,” Alex rolled her eyes as she went to find Jane and Katie.
He followed after, “No really, did you change something?”
“Goodbye, Hunter,” she sighed and walked over to the booth in the corner.
Katie moved over to let Alex in, and holding up her glass, she sighed, “Here’s to the first day back-”
All three raised their glasses and Alex added, “Here’s to being employed, even if it was just for a day.”
Jane clicked her tongue, “It wasn’t that bad, Alex; all first days are hard.”
Alex snorted into her drink, “I’m sure you’re right.”
Katie smirked, “Probably one of the more memorable first days in Hogwarts history.”
Alex’s look darkened, “I’m going to get more firewhiskey.”
Alex circled the Quidditch pitch for what seemed like the hundredth time. She panted to a stop when Jane, whom was far to awake for the early hour, stopped at the sidelines. Jane frowned and crossed her arms, “I’ve been searching for you everywhere. How can you run out here; it’s the middle of winter . . . You look different.”
“Very astute,” Alex sighed and reached for her water bottle.
“No, no, it’s not anything drastic, but you look more resigned, or rather . . . determined.”
Alex arched a brow pointedly before the pair began to walk back towards the castle, “So, why have you been searching for me?”
“Now that you mention it, you do look different; did you do something to your nose?”
“My nose? Get to the point, Jane?”
“Oh, yes, well, I wanted to talk to you about your approach for the first day.”
Alex sighed, “Introductions I suppose and then, a review to see where they are and what things need to be covered before finals. I really can only hope to prepare them enough for their exams.”
“It sounds like a good plan, but you shouldn’t be so negative. I’m sure you’ll do fine. Did you want to get breakfast?”
Alex looked down at herself pointedly and then looked back at Jane, “I have to get ready for classes, but I can meet you there in a little bit.”
Alex was halfway to her room when four boys rounded the corner. The blonde-looking one smirked, and Alex rolled her eyes as he said, “You look different. Did you do something with your eyebrows?”
“One more word and you’ll have detention for a week,” she interrupted.
His smirk widened, but saying nothing more, he rounded the corner with his friends and disappeared from sight. Alex huffed and jogged the rest of the way to her room.
Thirty minutes, and several gawking first years later, Alex made it to the Great Hall just as Jane was leaving. Jane smiled and waved, “Good; I was looking for you . . . I may have forgotten to warn you about something.”
They began to walk in the direction of the Transfiguration classroom, “Do you remember Headmaster Marks saying that we ran through three nurses, two caretakers, and four professors in this past school year?”
“Yes.” Alex looked confused.
“Well, what he didn’t say was that it may have been the direct result of certain students—four boys to be precise. Since then, we’ve had to change hiring practices. You’ve met Katie . . . not much can steamroll through her. The new caretaker is deaf and mute. And well, you . . . well, we thought that you were used to juggling the chaos.”
“Did you say four boys? I think I may have already met them. I’m sorry, but how does this warrant a conversation?” Jane shifted nervously, and Alex narrowed her eyes. “Jane?”
“The sixth year class is abnormally small, and well, we couldn’t warrant making two classes out of them. So, you’ll have all the sixth years in the period after lunch.”
“Let me guess, the four children of Voldemort are all in that class?”
Jane stopped short in the hallway and huffed, crossing her arms, “I really wish people would stop calling them that.”
Alex frowned, “Well, your four troubled youths ran through nine staff members and warranted this whole conversation, so I think they earned that title.”
“I’m just warning you. Just be prepared for the period after lunch-”
“JANE!” Alex screeched, grabbing her by the arm and whipping her out of the way. The first balloon that incidentally was filled with black ink hit the ground; the second, Alex caught in her outstretched hand. Ink was splattered over her legs and all over the floor. From behind a nearby suit of armor, a chorus of gasps rang out. Turning on her heels, Alex strode over to the suit in question as someone whispered, “We should make a run for it…”
Alex smirked, “You can try, but I would only catch you in the end…”
“Bloody hell!” a different voice sounded, “I told you we were too old to haze the teachers.”
“You call this hazing?” Alex rolled the balloon between her hands, “My eighty-year-old landlady could do better than this.”
“Did she just insult us?” a third voice sounded.
“The trouble is . . . I could see the guide wire. If you had taken three extra seconds to plan, you would have remembered to put an invisibility spell on the wire. ” Alex sighed, “and then, maybe I would be slightly impressed rather than being slightly annoyed.”
“Merlin, I knew we forgot to do something,” the first voice sounded.
The smallest voice of them all finally spoke, “Guys, maybe we should stand up…”
With a shuffling sound, four bodies appeared from behind the display. The looks on their faces ranged from guilt to smug arrogance. “Okay, I want to know your name, year, and house…”
The smallest stepped forward, and with a swallow, spoke, “Jasper Fowl, Professor, sixth-year Hufflepuff.” Alex recognized his voice as the last she had heard.
A sandy-haired boy stepped forward next, his hair combed neatly and his uniform pressed, “Anthony Rudner, Ravenclaw, sixth-year.”
The smug-looking one swaggered forward, his blonde hair falling into his eyes, “Gabriel Lowe, Slytherin, sixth-year.”
Lastly, the boy at the end, the one still bearing a look of shock, stepped forward, his brown hair quite literally standing on end, “Charles Rowland, Gryffindor, sixth-year, but everyone calls me Chuck.”
Alex smiled falsely sweet, “Well, that’s just sweet, so you’re the brains behind this little scheme?”
He opened his mouth, but Alex spoke over him, “It was a rhetorical question, Charles. But for future reference, if you’re going to play a prank on me . . . try not to insult my intelligence in the process.”
Gabriel snorted something under his breath that sounded a lot like, “What intelligence?”
Jasper perked up on the end, “You’re Ms. Wood, Professor of Transfiguration.”
“Former Hogwarts Head girl,” Tony added.
“Currently, the arm candy for one James Potter and was voted the number one hottie in Quidditch Monthly.” Gabriel drawled.
“You played keeper for the Gryffindor Quidditch team for three years and won three cups, of which you played a significant role for each win. Eventually going on to invent the move entitled the ‘Wood Drop Roll’.” Chuck added enthusiastically.
Alex stared blankly at the boys for a second before shaking her head, “You guys really do your homework.”
Gabriel smirked, “We don’t do homework . . . You’re just really famous.”
Alex frowned, “Okay, go get to class.”
“What, no ‘I better not catch you doing anything like this again!’ or ‘detention?’” Chuck gawked.
“I’m smart enough to know that there’s no stopping you—just know, there is very little you can pull off that I won’t be able to prevent,” Alex added ominously.
With a shiver, each boy turned to leave. Then, with a nod, Alex turned and began to walk up the hall. After a second, she froze; and reaching out, she tripped an invisible wire and caught the ink-filled balloon that followed. With a smirk, she walked back to the frowning Chuck. Depositing both balloons in his hands, she said, “And I see everything.”
First period was the first-years; they were small and too scared to actually say a word the entire class period. They barely had the courage to whisper the incantation to turn their match sticks into needles and their beetles into buttons.
She had an hour break before she had the N.E.W.T. level seventh-years that seemed to care less that they had a new professor. The only thing they seemed concerned about was impressing her with how much they knew about cross-species switches and human transfiguration.
As the bell for lunch rang, the seventh-year students stood, packing up their belongings. When most of them were finished and heading out the door, Katie stuck her head in the room.
“Hey,” Alex sighed.
“Hey Lex! If you have a second, I have something you’ve got to see.”
Alex watched as the last of her students exited the room, “Sure, what’s up?”
Katie grabbed Alex’s hand and pulled out of the classroom, “You’re going to love this.”
Alex stared wide-eyed down at a boy lying in a hospital bed. Katie smirked, “what did I tell you?”
“W-what happened?” Alex gasped.
“This is what happens to a fifth-year when they try their hand at becoming an Animagus.”
The boy shifted in an uncomfortable sleep; he had scaly arms and legs, his eyes were a strange reflective green, and a four foot tail snaked to the floor, “His Animagus is what…? An iguana?”
Katie shrugged, “He got pretty far considering he’s only sixteen.”
“Yeah, but why is he asleep?”
“Freaked out and started licking everything in sight . . . I’m going to be cleaning for a century.”
Alex gasped, “You mean he transfigured his tongue?” Alex grimaced as the foot long tongue lulled out of the boy’s mouth. “Katie, why am I here?”
“Well, you are our resident Transfiguration expert, except for the Headmaster, and I don’t feel like sending this poor kid down the river until we figure out what happened…”
“He tried a spell that was outside his ability . . . what else is there to know?”
“Well, there are certain students who would be capable of this kind of mayhem, and Marks may have a coronary.”
“These would be the four delinquents I saved Jane from earlier—the four students I have next period.”
Katie grimaced, “Yeah, good luck with that. So, can you help the poor kid?”
Alex sighed and pulled out her wand, “Yeah, but it’s going to take time.”
After a few minutes, Katie sighed i boredom, “Did you change something? You look different…”
Alex looked over her shoulder, “Really?”
“What?” Katie asked shrilly.
“You really don’t know?” The bell tolled over head, ending the lunch period. Alex’s head snapped up, “Crap, I’m going to be late for my own class. Look, I did what I could, but the kid is going to have to live with the tail until the end of the day.”
In the entrance hall, Alex ran into something solid. The figure growled, “Can you watch where you’re going- oh Alexandra…”
“How is your first day going?”
“Great; the students are really- surprising.”
“And how is James?”
Alex froze, slowly looking up to meet Olivia’s gaze, “I’m going to be late for my next class.”
Alex began to jog up the stairs as Olivia called after her, “Goodbye, Alexandra.”
She shot Olivia a dark look as she continued her way up the stairs. Alex was slightly out of breath when she walked into the classroom, and every head of the sixth-year class turned to look at her. She balked slightly at the door and whispers broke out around the room. She steadied herself with a breath and walked to the front of the room. “Hello everyone, my name is Professor Wood. I will be working with you all until the end of this school year. Today, I just wanted to go over the stuff you guys have already learned so-”
A hand shot up in the back, it belonged to Gabriel, “Is it true that you and James broke up?”
Alex wasn’t entirely shocked, but it took her a few seconds to find her words, “As I was saying, I really just want to see where you guys are-”
Chuck threw his hand in the air, “So, it’s not true . . . you aren’t pregnant?”
Alex frowned, “Five points from Gryffindor. This is Transfiguration, and In Transfiguration, we study only that. If you find you have any questions related to me or my personal life, you may ask them in detention; or if you prefer, the headmaster’s office. Now, if you will all pull out your wands, I would like you to vanish the objects before you.”
Alex sighed, taking the seat behind her desk as the students began to mill about. A girl sitting a few rows back gave a slight wave. Her red hair cascaded down over her shoulders, and she had a slight smirk on her face. Alex gapped, “Roxanne?”
The girl stood and swept up to the desk, “Hey Alex- I mean, Professor.”
Alex smiled, “Roxanne, I can’t believe Halie didn’t remind me you were still in school.”
Roxanne smiled, “It’s okay; she’s been busy with the wedding and all.”
Charles swaggered to the front to the room, “Well, if it isn’t ‘Foxy Roxy;’ how was your holiday?”
Roxanne rolled her eyes, “Good Chuck . . . yours?”
Alex sighed, “Shouldn’t you two, I don’t know . . . be vanishing something?”
Roxanne beamed and shuffled off to her table; Charles sighed and wandered back over to his friends. Alex smirked, “Tough luck, Chuck.”
Alex jogged up the stairs to the Owlery with three letters clutched in her hands, one for James, Halie, and Naomi. The floor crunched beneath her feet as she looked around the room. Frost layered the walls and she shivered slightly. She clicked her tongue and a school owl swept down to rest on her arm as she tied the letters to the bird’s leg.
She watched the bird disappear on the horizon before she turned around and headed for the stairs. On the top step, she hit a patch of ice and slid down the stairs on her butt. At the bottom, she sighed, not even bothering to stand up. A deep gravely voice reached her ears from around the corner, “I thought famous keepers were supposed to be graceful.”
Finn swaggered around the corner with a lopsided smile; Alex glowered, “Where have you been living? Under a rock?”
Finn stretched out a hand and helped her to her feet. Alex sighed, “Well, I better get going . . . dinner started like an hour ago.”
Finn stepped between Alex and the door back to the castle. “I-I was thinking,” he placed a hand on her shoulder and smirked, “did you want to go get a drink or something?”
Alex laughed hollowly, "That’s really funny, Finn."
Finn moved to block her again, "No really, I find you enchanting."
This time, Alex stopped, "Okay, Finn, we both know I have a boyfriend, and that you have a thing for Jane . . . so, what's the deal?"
He folded his arms in front of him, "I do not have a thing for Patience; why would you say such a thing!"
Smirking, Alex's hands found her hips, "How about the fact that nobody else calls her Patience, and you know she hates it; plus, some guys just get a kick out of the librarian type."
"I do not like the librarian type; I like the Quidditch-playing, butterbeer-drinking type."
Her eyes narrowed, and Alex sighed, "Right, well, if that’s all-" Alex made to step around him again, but he stepped to block her path.
"Now, just hold on a second, Wood; give me a chance to finish..."
"Well, as you know, I’m the Quidditch coach and flying instructor and the word around school is that you’re a pretty good flyer . . . could have gone professional; if it weren't for your aspirations to transfigure."
"The word around school?" Alex repeated doubtfully.
He shook his head nonchalantly, "you know, just the Quidditch captains arguing over which team you would help out now that you’re teaching here."
Alex frowned, "and what makes them think I’ll be helping with any of the teams?"
"Well, they knew that I was going to ask you," he shuffled nervously, "So, Alex, what do you say? Do you mind helping?"
"I haven't been on the pitch in years."
"Lie!" Finn screamed, dramatically pointing a finger, "I saw you out there this morning; you still keep up with your old training schedule!"
Alex rolled her eyes. "Fine, I’ll help you with a Quidditch team, but just one," she added with a menacing glare.
"Great, you can help Gryffindor; the captain is Chuck Rowland. I'll make sure he talks to you about the training schedule."
Alex growled, "Great! Now, if we’re done, I really would like to get dinner."
Finn blocked her path yet again. This time, Alex made no pretense at manners, "Okay, Finn, I know when someone is just trying to stall . . . tell me what’s going on."
He averted his gaze in guilty fashion and stammered, "N-nothing, you should just wait a few more minutes before heading back into the castle."
"Why?" she asked sharply, trying to step around him.
He grabbed onto her shoulders with both hands, "Just trust me!"
For the first time, Alex noticed the piece of paper tucked into the pocket of his robes. The small slice of a picture that was available for her to see was moving. A bad feeling sunk to the pit of her stomach as she snatched the paper from its hiding place. Finn fumbled to get it back, "No, don't!"
Alex stared at him dryly as she pulled the paper open. Ten or so clippings from the Daily Prophet had been collaged onto the page, all of which showed her tripping and flashing her knickers. In blocky letters, towards the center of the page, was written, "Transfiguration Professor exposed."
Alex ground her teeth together, pushed Finn out of her way, and marched into the castle. In the entrance hall, she found a frenzied-looking Jane, who was clutching dozens of the brightly colored flyers to her chest, "Alex, I’m sorry; I didn’t think they would do something like this."
Ignoring her, Alex walked into the Great Hall where the multitudes of teachers and students alike fell into a dead silence. She walked purposefully to the table where the four boys sat with their heads bent, trying to restrain their laughter.
Tony was the first to regain his composure, "Good evening, Professor."
"Good evening, Anthony."
Gabriel looked up, shaking with silent laughter, "So, how was your first day, Professor?"
Alex smirked, "Well, it was going wonderfully; but I have to admit, tonight wasn't the best."
Chuck beamed, "We should thank you, Professor. With all the time you saved us earlier today, we were able to do something much more constructive."
Alex's smile faltered as she pulled out the flyer, "Somehow you managed to get my good side."
Gabriel snorted, "That’s a matter of opinion."
Jasper looked up gravely, "So what will it be then, Professor..."
Chuck grinned, "Detention?"
"Suspension?" Gabriel drawled.
"Flogging?" Anthony added with a comic note.
"Disembowelment?" Jasper concluded.
Alex waved her hand dismissively, "No, no, what’s a little extra press at the end of the day? Plus, it isn't like you all haven't seen this before—it was in all the newspapers."
Chuck frowned, "You mean you aren't mad?"
Alex managed a tight-lipped smile, "Not at all, enjoy your dessert then, boys!"
She continued up toward the staff table. Then, she paused and turned around with a menacing glare, "Oh, Chuck, I’m overseeing the Gryffindor Quidditch team from now on. I’ll need you to catch me up on the schedule." Chuck paled slightly as she continued on her way.
Professor Marks was several shades of red when she finally made it to the front, "Ms. Wood, I will expect an explanation-"
Alex held up a hand to silence him, "Professor Marks, I mean no disrespect, but you knew full well my past when you hired me. You need someone those boys won't get the better of . . . and we both know that's me. But if you can't handle a little bad press, let me know so I can start packing."
Marks muttered something under his breath, but continued, "Not necessary, Professor; please have a seat, and join us for dinner."
Alex walked around the table and settled into the seat between Jane and Katie, who both smiled in welcome.
Katie smirked, "So what . . . no punishment?"
"They just feed off the attention; why prolong my own agony anyway? Plus, there are plenty of other ways to make them uncomfortable."
She looked up to find the four boys glaring at her, and with a smile, she waved.
They turned as one and began to mutter. A few seats down, Finn leaned forward, "So, Alex, I’ve been meaning to ask; have you changed something because you look different?"
Everyone nodded in agreement. Alex rolled her eyes and started eating her dinner, ignoring the dozen or so stares in her direction.
Jane and Katie waved from the door, and Alex finished the last of her butterbeer. She looked up to find Hunter sliding into the, now vacant, seat opposite her. Alex rolled her eyes, “What could you possibly want?”
“Well, I haven’t exactly met my bitch quota for the day; I figured you would help me out.”
“You mean you haven’t walked into any of your grandmother’s tea parties today?”
“Did you just call my grandmother a bitch?”
“No, I was calling my grandmother a bitch; yours is just guilty by association.”
Hunter laughed, and he and Alex leaned, subconsciously, closer to one another. A camera flashed, and Alex and Hunter turned to find its source—it was her grandmother’s camera guy. She flashed him a menacing glare. The man squeaked in fright, turned, and ran from the bar. Hunter smirked, “So, that happens to you a lot?”
“You have no idea. They’re absolutely shameless, and when you try to fight it, they just get worse.”
“Have you ever just wanted to run away to a place where no one knows you and change your name?”
“Yeah- I did that once.”
“How did that go for you?”
Alex smiled, “It was possibly one of the most disastrous, most rewarding mistakes of my life . . . never have I been in so many newspapers.”
“So, you had a bad first day?”
“It wasn’t one of my finest moments, and that’s coming from a lifetime of shame and humiliation.”
He narrowed his eyes, “Really, did you change something because you look really different?”
Alex rolled her eyes, “That is like the hundredth time I’ve been asked that today.”
“So, something is different.”
Alex’s smile tightened, “It’s the hair; it’s not red anymore.”
“Oh- Well, the red was nice, but the brown . . . it seems more you-”
“You’ve only met me once before . . . how could you possibly know me?”
“No- all I’m saying is that you’re far too sarcastic to have such a cheerful hair color; the brown matches your dark portance. If I may ask . . . why the change?”
Silence followed the question. The bar, which was nearly empty, echoed the silence with only the gentle clinking of glasses. Alex grimaced and looked up at him thoughtfully, “It- it was just time.”